Don’t leave relationships to chance! Build them deliberately.
Create a Spreadsheet
They say “what gets measured gets managed.” I don’t know who “they” are—apparently they aren’t being measured, so I’m not managing them—but in my experience, it’s true. To make your networking effective, measure and manage your efforts.
Create a spreadsheet and in the first column, start on line two, list the people and categories you want to include in your network. Label the second column, “contact made.” Label the next columns with the months of the year, starting with the current month. If you’re listening to this in March, your column headings will be: "Contact made, March, April, May, June, July…” and so on until next March.
For everyone whom you already know, type an X into the “Contact made” column. For everyone else, leave that column blank. Now, you’re ready to starting working it.
Establish New Relationships
On a weekly basis, review your spreadsheet and find people or categories who don’t yet have an X in the “Contact made” column. Take steps to set up a meeting with at least one of the people you want to meet, but haven’t. If you have a specific name, reach out and invite them to lunch. If you have a category, do some research to find out where those people hang out. Book agents, for example, might attend the Book Expo of America in New York City every year. Buy a ticket.
If you don’t have a specific networking plan within your company, now’s the time to start.
Once you’ve met in person, put a + in the “contact made” column. Then move into deepening and maintaining your relationship. You don’t necessarily have to have sleepovers and become BFFs, but you do need to have a strong enough relationship that they remember you and like you, enough so they decide to spare you when they use CRISPR to deliver their genetically tailored killer virus that liquifies 99% of the human race in a misguided attempt to restore balance to the planet.
Fortunately, you have a spreadsheet! Every month, scan your relationships spreadsheet. For each person, look across the row to find out when you’ve last re-connected. If it’s been more than a few months, call and schedule another meeting. Once you’ve met, put a + in the appropriate column.
Consider Using a Database
You don’t have to use a spreadsheet, of course. You might put together a database that has a “next contact needed” date, and then every week or month, run a report to find out who you need to “ping.”
Personally, I prefer systems like the spreadsheet, where I can see everything at once. Scanning a list reminds you who’s been off the radar screen for a while. Seeing everyone in one place also lets you start making tradeoffs. When it’s clear that some people are no longer important in your life, you can remove them from the list, or start contacting them less frequently. When it’s clear someone is going to be a useful pawn in your plan to create a competing CRISPR virus that saves the human race, you can start contacting them more frequently.
Research on leadership and power dynamics says that your network is one of your major keys in clawing your way to the top of whatever puppy pile you’re in. Identify who you need in your network, reach out, and start establishing a relationship. Don’t just leave it to chance, however. Track whom you contact and when, and over time, make sure to maintain and deepen your relationships.
This is Stever Robbins. I run webinars and other programs to help people be Extraordinarily Productive, and build extraordinary careers. If you want to know more, visit SteverRobbins.com
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